This is a good day for freedom and a bad day for dictators everywhere.
The Libyan people, supported by the international community, have finally rid themselves of one of the vilest and most brutal dictators on the planet.
This is a good moment for the ongoing Arab Spring and Liberal interventionists without whom this wouldn’t have happened.
Lets not pat ourselves on the back too much today however. Libya faces a long road. The conflict claimed, by conservative estimates, thousands of lives. Perhaps even tens of thousands, we may not know the extent of the mass killings carried out by the regime. Each death represents an injustice which tears at the fabric of families and, collectively, the country. The west and G20 countries can help with reconstruction. Reconciliation will be a long time coming.
After the collapse, by revolution, of a dictatorship, if caught the dictator is usually killed. Mussolini was hung from a meat hook, Hitler shot himself, others like Ion Antonescu and Saddam Hussein were caught and executed. Once it was known Gaddafi was in under siege Sirte it was never going to end with an arrest and trial. You may have your own view about which outcome would have been better but whilst I would have wanted Gaddafi to face justice the nature of the man means any trial would have descended into farce.
However the day will be marked, for me, by the way it was reported. Sky, Al Jazeera and the Guardian all carried photos, first of a wounded and bloody Gaddafi, then a naked dictator being dragged through the streets and as I type pictures of a live Gaddafi being paraded in front of rebel fighters. The images were graphic, gruesome and disturbing.
Undoubtedly the shock value factor of such photos cannot be underestimated but were they necessary to report the story? Have we really reached the point where photos of dead bodies form a routine part of everyday news reporting?
The need to sensationalise reporting to get people to watch the news in a battle of ratings is a retrograde step. During the conflict we had Sky reporters on the frontline of the battle of Tripoli, journalists turned hostage and held at gunpoint and reports live from the scene of fresh air strikes. Exciting war reporting, yes, but I do wonder just how far news editors will push their crews , and the bounds of what is acceptable television, before something seriously troubling happens.